LUBBOCK, TX - Just two weeks away from the first day of school, students aren't the only ones gearing up for classes to start. Police officers are going to class, taking tests, and turning in papers, just like the kids, to become school-based law enforcement officers.
Officers from all over the region came to Lubbock to get certified through the Texas School Safety Center. The course covered mental health issues, sensitivity training, lessons on the child brain, and active shooter training.
For school districts under 30,000 students the training isn't required by law yet, so only about half the LISD officers are certified. The LISD Police Chief said more of his officers want to take the course, and the training is invaluable.
"We all know the basics and how to be a police officer and work the streets and be a patrolman. Everybody starts there,” LISD Police Chief Jody Scifres said. “But just like you don't take a patrol officer and hand him a homicide investigation without specialized training, and you don't take a patrol officer and make him go do a hostage rescue without SWAT training. It is the same thing with school-based-law enforcement."
Experts said you can’t police the school hallways like you would the streets.
"It wasn't exactly a good fit to put a traditional officer right off the street into a school, because they didn't have the specialized training," Program Director at the Texas School Safety Center Joe Muñoz said.
One of the key training sessions involved a “circle” where the officers learned sensitivity tactics they can use when getting kids to open up. Many of the officers shared moments with students or ways they can help kids on a daily basis.
"We work with kids, and kids make mistakes,” Highland Park ISD Police Chief David Sirmon said. “This course teaches how to deal with that without pulling them into the criminal justice system.”
Sirmon worked the streets for years before making the transition to schools. The officers at the training agreed their jobs go beyond just protection. They want to help the kids succeed.
“Nobody wants to see a kid fail in life," Sirmon said, saying this course helps officers relate to the students.
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